Date: 4th March 2012 at 12:49pm
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Well, it was City. What do you expect? We were bound to lose and we should be glad it was only by two goals. We still have our season in our hands and a win against QPR next week and we will rise, Phoenix like, from the flames of relegation.

This was a popular thought last night amongst Bolton fans. A thought that spurs them on for another week. But what guarantee do we now have that we will get anything out of QPR? Or, for that matter, Blackburn and Wolves when they follow in quick succession? What have we seen over the past four weeks to suggest anything but no points? So how on earth can you say this was a game that we expected to lose, so everything is alright?

It is muddled thinking. To say that at the end of the game would suggest that you knew, despite the long odds on a victory or even a draw, that you were resigned to losing before the game started. What kind of fan does that make you? We may well have lost if we had Holden and LCY in the team, but that does not excuse the shambolic line up, the poor tactics and the overwhelmingly poor display from certain individuals, the worst culprit being Zat Knight. Play with that line up and formation many more times and we will only be dreaming of losing to Citeh as we won’t be facing them on a regular basis.

It is easy to suggest that the writing was on the wall when the team was announced, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t easy as there was difficulty working out who was playing where. Ream, Wheater and Knight? Pratley, Mavies and NRC? A five man defence? A three man defence? A six man midfield?

As it turned out, Tim Ream, in only his second Premier League game and after acquitting himself well against Chelsea, was shunted into an unfamiliar defensive midfield role with Muamba placed back on the bench. Mavies started on the right with Pratley and NRC in the middle. Once the square pegs had been sorted out, THEN the writing was on the wall.

I said on Twitter yesterday that this was the most inept thing that the manager has done this season. And it was. By a long chalk. If, as he suggested in the article in the Daily Mail on Thursday, he is certain that we will survive, then he is going the long way about it. Pratley is no Mavies, Mavies in no right winger and Ream is no defensive midfielder. Zat Knight, it turned out, is no match for a player who spent most of Friday night watching ladies take their clothes off.

Watching Knight yesterday was one of the saddest things that I have ever seen. Like an old horse who was never good enough and isn’t even wanted for stud being outdone by a player who is both those things. He must have been studying old Arsenal videos the way his arm automatically went up in the air everytime the ball went forward. He could, and probably should, have been penalised twice for taking Balotelli out in the penalty area. He waved his hand in the air when standing behind, but virtually next to, Balotelli who didn’t compound this mistake by slipping at the wrong moment. He still had time to get the ball and run towards the area, Knight ambling after him. He then waved his arm again for offside when the ball had been played by a Bolton player. When even Match of the Day point out your inadequacies, you know you’ve had a bad day.

In fact, so badly did Knight play he made Darren Pratley, who half volleyed an exquisite shot onto his own bar, look adequate. High praise indeed.

The goals were unlucky and perfunctory. Clichy’s shot taking a wicked deflection of Steinsson’s head to wrongfoot Bogdan in the first half before Knight backpeddled half the penalty area before allowing Adam Johnson to back heel the ball into Balottelli’s path for the second, Knight himself managing to take two other defenders and Bogdan out of the equation with his simple lack of willing to tackle. Maybe he thought that that it would be third time unlucky.

Unwilling to change the game, OC sent on Fabrice Muamba eighty seven minutes late for Pratley, whilst Eagles, Petrov, Klasnic and Sordell stewed on the bench. OC’s seeming refusal to replace underperforming players has been a source of major disgruntlement this season and he did himself no favours yesterday. One can only assume that he was saving them for QPR. In which case, why put Muamba on? Bizarre.

There were some good signs. Miyaichi forced Joe Hart into a regulation safe to his left in the same way he forced Al-Habsi against Wigan and Adam Bogdan cemented his position as first choice goalkeeper with some first class stops. NRC did as much as he could, considering who he had playing alongside him, but that was all. Other than that it was a poor showing all round.

Which brings us back to the beginning. False hope is no hope. There has been nothing to suggest in the past two games that OC has learnt anything from the two games preceding them, so those who believe that we will get out of this mire just by blindly believing that he will turn it round and that there are worse teams than us in the league, which there are, are akin to the fable of the Pied Piper, following blindy to a lovely tune. We know that we can win the forthcoming games because we all saw what happened against Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal. But we also saw what happened against Newcastle, Norwich and Wigan. Trust that turned into belief that turned into hope is turning into sacrificing a chicken and praying to the goddess Bootilicous. If we lose against QPR, some of the north stand are going to have to start selling their souls.

Do I believe we can still survive? Naturally. It is still in our own hands and there are still the players to get us out of it. But the manager has ignored the calls for the settled side that we all believe should be sent out and yesterday tinkered with it so much it resembled nothing that had come before. The worrying thing is, he may not have finished yet.

 

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